Getting away with murder

Some weeks back, media in Pakistan ran the rather chilling story of a baby girl abandoned in a garbage dump in Faisalabad. She was discovered after sanitary workers set fire to the garbage in the dump and the baby cried as the fire reached her.

The baby sustained 80 per cent burns and lived her final hours in agony. A staffer on the desk named the baby 'Afeerah' which means "covered in soil and dust". Baby Afeerah died the next day in a local hospital.

Who can we hold responsible for such deaths, I wonder. Has our society reached the stage where no one cares? Possibly our priorities are different.

Thousands ahead rallies to bring the "daughter of the nation" Aafia Siddiqui home, but no one seems to care about the state thousands of daughters in Pakistan are living in.

Every day, we find several babies abandoned in cribs put out by charitable organisations for this very purpose. We do not know how many more are left to die in dumps or remote places. SHOs are happy to share anecdotal evidence of these little angels whose lives have been snuffed out.

They say that these babies are found on regular basis. We also don't know how well these children are treated when they are taken in by the charitable organisations.

There is no proper procedure for adoption in place either, with the result that couples who want to adopt these children have to move from pillar to post to gain custody.

In all this, our society remains unmoved. We still have to find those who criminally assaulted the five-year-old girl in Lahore in October.

Despite promises by the CM and a positive identification of the accused on CCTV, the Punjab police continue to grapple with shadows. Not one official has been dismissed for negligence. These are not isolated cases.

From January 2012 to September 2013, there were 90 acid attacks on women, 72 cases of burning caused by other means, 491 cases of domestic violence, 344 cases of gang rape and 835 cases of other violence. And these are just cases that were reported.

Now for an even more chilling number: in almost all these cases, not one person was convicted of
the crime.

The first victory in a rape case took place this week when eight accused were sentenced in the Motan Bheel case.

A recent report by the Aurat Foundation on Violence against Women stated that the total number of gender-based violence incidents touched 1,650 only in Punjab this year.

In total, we know that 1,858 persons were attacked in one way or another — 1,752 women and girls faced these heinous crimes along with 106 young men and boys. The majority of the victims are almost always young girls.

What are we doing about this? Nothing. While human rights organisations and other NGOs cry themselves hoarse, our right-wing parties, their apologists and the establishment see a conspiracy against Pakistan in this.

Human rights abuses continue to increase in Pakistan. Attempts to bring the perpetrators to justice are usually met with failure. The system is so corrupt that one or the other can be bought.

That is why even after the most gruesome of killings, the guilty end up escaping. We don't have to go as far as the Shahzeb murder case. The Shan Khusro case is an equally powerful reminder.

But here, there seems to be an unwritten understanding amongst those that matter. The rich get away
with murder.

Such incidents do not put our country's reputation at stake. It is always the poor who end up giving our country a bad name, it seems. Behind their every move, there is a conspiracy.

Shahrukh Jatoi did not tarnish Pakistan's image. But Mukhtaran Mai did. How can you argue with such thinking?

We have not even spared polio. An anti-polio drive is seen as a Western ploy against Pakistan.

That is why I welcome a the announcement by Imran Khan to personally launch an anti-polio campaign. So far there has been little political ownership of this.

Imran Khan's announcement comes soon after India said it will impose restrictions on travellers from Pakistan making it mandatory for them to have their polio vaccine.

We know that soon this requirement will also be put in place by other countries including China and Saudi Arabia, our friendliest friends.

The Express Tribune


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